In Lydia Rui’s short film ‘This Perfect Day’, a young person enters a music shop for unclear reasons while their girlfriend waits in a car outside. The atmosphere in the car is fraught and nervous, and their girlfriend cryptically reminds them that they’ve come to the shop for a reason. Rui’s camera is tight and intimate, and for a while we have no idea what is going to happen, only feeling the tension of the situation.
Rui, as it turns out, was Beyoncé’s videographer during her 2013/14 international tour, and has only recently begun to branch out into narrative film work. Watching this short reveals Rui’s instinctive feel for her character’s inner world, and the power of selectively-chosen close ups. You have to imagine that the whirlwind of bodies and passions and scheduling that constitutes the machinery of a superstar’s tour was a lifetime’s worth of education in this regard.
Rui toys with the viewer for the bulk of the short, teasing us with the possibility that the protagonist (Jules, played by Michelle Keating) might be there to rob the shop. The claustrophobia of these moments is communicated through glances between Jules and the shop owner John (Lee Mason).
The camera flits between them, pushing in tighter, ramping up an intimacy that remains elusive. Is this merely the closeness between a thief and their target? Does John suspect them? Recognise them? They tell John they can’t afford a guitar, and just when we think Rui is taking us in one direction, Jules asks to play one, and the tone begins once more to shift. The camera starts to close the distance between Jules and John.
I won’t give away what happens next, but suffice to say that Rui’s bracingly tactile and sensitive camera work succeeds in surprising ways in bringing us deep into the psychology of the situation she has created. It is not at all removed or embellished, operating within an emotional reality often only signalled to (or altogether lacking) in films.
That she does this so swiftly is genuinely impressive. Kudos also to Keating and Mason, who play it guarded and furtive, both understanding that small gestures say more than large ones.
On her website Rui describes her transnational background (Chinese Australian) as allowing her an “empathetic eye”, and ‘This Perfect Day’ reflects a much needed sense of understanding and care for people in difficult situations. This short has secured her a spot at the prestigious Tribeca film festival. Her career is on the up. I look forward to whatever narrative she will explore next.
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